DNR Authority over Piers Preempts Town Ordinance

In a recent unpublished case, Lake Geneva Club v. Town of Linn, the appeals court upheld a circuit court ruling that the DNR has preemptive authority over piers pursuant to Wisconsin Statutes §§30.12 and 30.13. In this case, the Lake Geneva Club (LGC) owned property on Geneva Lake, and wanted to modify its existing pier and add a new pier. They applied to the DNR for a permit and, after a review of the circumstances and some modifications of the pier design, the DNR granted the permit. LGC then applied for a building permit from the Town of Linn. The Town’s building inspector recommended approval based on the town ordinance, but for reasons that aren’t well spelled out in the court opinion, the Town Board denied the permit. (There apparently was opposition to the permit from members of the public, but no details were discussed).

LGC appealed to the circuit court, which ruled that the Town did not have jurisdiction to deny the permit since the DNR had preeminent authority regulating piers. The court also noted that it appeared that LGC had met all the requirements of the town ordinance. “By fashioning a decision in disregard of the rules it promulgated, the Town Board acted beyond its authority.” The appeals court upheld what it called the “thorough written decision” of the circuit court.

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